Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty
International Law and Politics
Chapter Seven: Territorial disputes in Europe and Asia
This chapter evaluates ongoing territorial disputes in Europe and Asia, which have different characteristics from the territorial disputes in the Americas. The disputes in Europe share a common thread: the sociological component. In Asia, the disputes clearly demonstrate the negative synergy created when the domestic, regional and international contexts merge.
The first section centers on cases that involve two ethnic or nationality groups living in the same or adjacent territory, neither of which wants to belong to a state dominated by the other (the cases of Crimea, Gibraltar, Cyprus and Northern Ireland illustrate this segment). The section introduces, compares, contrasts and appraises many domestic, regional and international issues at stake, such as geopolitical importance, territorial integrity and historical entitlement, and highlights the role of sociological components such as nationalism, minorities and national identity. Furthermore, the region provides several samples of situations that could potentially be resolved but in which a leader’s prestige works against a final and peaceful settlement because the status quo or ongoing tension provides them higher pay-off with their constituency.
The second section focuses on geostrategic location locally, regionally and globally, focusing on the cases of Kashmir and the South China Sea. This section gives particular attention to an often-overlooked element in territorial disputes: the fact that non-regional parties and their interests play a major role in their origin, continuation and potential escalation into conflict. Similarly to the European cases, the Asian examples have leaders profiting from the ongoing nature of the territorial dispute and using them to gain domestic and international support.
The overall aim of this chapter is to explore in more depth elements other than territory that are directly involved with the initiation and continuation of territorial disputes. Historical roots are an important factor, as the cases in the Americas illustrate. Yet, even in situations in which it may seem that historical interference from external influence has not been an issue for a long time, deeply embedded intra-social tension between different groups contributes towards the perennial nature of some territorial differences. Moreover, these domestic frictions are exploited by national leaders and international agents not necessarily part of the region who have their own agendas.
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